Serving Hudson County’s Progressive Jewish Community for Over 150 Years

Keynote Speech by Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight

On the Occasion of Temple Beth-El’s 34th Annual Sabbath Service in Honor and Memory of the Life, Work and Vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 18, 2019

Good evening, I want to thank and acknowledge: Rabbi Leana Moritt, Temple President Tom Rosensweet, the Past Temple President Irwin Rosen who spearheaded this celebration, Sam Pesin, the entire Temple Beth El congregation, elected officials, family members, friends and community members.

I want to salute and say Happy 90th Birthday in Heaven Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.!
I am truly honored to be here with you tonight. When I was contacted to be the Keynote Speaker, I must tell you, a sense of joy came over me. For many weeks afterwards, my mind began to ponder about the message I would deliver.

I conducted a search of the many works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and took pride in reading his words. As I read through the many quotes and the conversations that Dr. King had with the Rabbinical Assembly on March 25, 1968, only 10 days before he was assassinated, I internalized the message presented by him.

My goal tonight is to not only leave you with a message; but also offer a challenge to you to implement change in your everyday lives.

During mid-1950’s, Dr. King started making a difference by leading the civil rights movement until his assignation in 1968. I truly believe that, Dr. King would have kept advocating for what he believed was right, until he was not able to fight anymore.

Gandhi, has been famously associated with the saying, “be the change that you want to see in the world.” Dr. King wanted to see change by upholding the ideas of promoting peace, fairness and unity.

Dr. King did not allow any excuses, pointing fingers, passing the buck and procrastination to stop him from working on the change that he desired. He did all that he could to see his efforts become a reality, but he didn’t do it alone. Dr. King worked with community leaders, residents, clergy members, workers, and many more to get them all on board with the vision he had of working together.

I say this to you because I want you to ask yourself, are you doing what Dr. King did? Are you taking actions to see the change that you want to see in your community or in the world or are you being complacent?

Dr. King stated, “There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will”. With the tremendous amount of people in the world, it breaks my heart to know that there are people who have no food, have no roof over their head or just trying to simply make it through the day. If we as a people wanted to end hunger, end homelessness, help lift someone up, we as people would put our will into gear and act to help mitigate these ills. I started my nonprofit AngelaCARES in my living room because I saw a void in helping seniors, helping caregivers, a lack of volunteerism and a lack of joining youth and seniors. I have been and continue to act since 2010 to help make a difference in peoples’ lives. Since 2011, my nonprofit organization has helped over 5,000 people and my team and I will not stop helping.

As an Assemblywoman, I listen to my constituents, I see the ills that are occurring in our community and there is not a day that I don’t do all that I can to help, support and/or assist. Just two weeks, ago, Lt. Governor Oliver signed my Financial Literacy bill at President Barack Obama School, in which I championed with the staff, students and the community. I have worked with Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche for over 3 years on legislation to mandate a uniformed way of teaching financial literacy to students in grades 6th, 7th and 8th. Collectively we identified a need that our children needed and worked to change the narrative. The will of the people that have helped and continued to help me make this a reality kicked in, not the lack of resources. We all worked together through ups, downs and in between to make all of this a reality.
Dr. King also stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” This is a thought-provoking question and if you are doing something for others, I want to say thank you.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for helping another person in need. Whether you are helping one person, 20 people, or more, you are helping, and I say again, Thank you. You are doing your part in society of assisting someone or people in need. Please do not get discouraged in times of adversity. Life is your journey; no one should tell you how to go about making change. When a person ridicules the way, you are going about helping others; pose the same question back to them. There are some people who will chastise you because you are not doing what they want you to do. Ask yourself, as this maybe you; is it right for you to push a problem onto someone without even asking or offering to help?

Now, if you are someone that is not doing something for others, then this is your wake-up call to start. Start tomorrow, use tonight to think about what you can do for someone or others and do it. You will be a part of the village that is helping to make our world, which includes your world, a better place.

Dr. King said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”. We all come from different backgrounds; but in the end we are all fighting for the greater good. For too long racism and discrimination continue to plague our
communities. For centuries some have spewed their hatred out onto others. For whoever feels like this, we are here to stay.

Instead of displaying hate and anger, remove the blindfold that is holding you back and begin to look at yourself.Do a self-evaluation to find out what ills make you come out of your character? Why do you display hate, discrimination, racism, etc.? What can you do to work on changing your behavior? Then begin to act. Always remember, the flight attendant says, “in the event of an emergency, first put your mask on before assisting others”. I say this because for you to stop displaying your ills onto others, you must first help yourself.

However, if you are stuck in your ways then I warn you that your actions may come with consequences. Remember, Dr. King said, “A productive and happy life is not something you find; it is something you make”.

My final words are begin to be accountable for YOUR actions. Do not worry about what the next person is or isn’t doing or even how they are doing it. As of right now, begin to hold yourself accountable, you control your accountability. Dr. King said, “And so the challenge which confronts all of us is to respond to our circumstances with strength and courage rather than with weakness and despair.” I want you to commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights. You will make a greater person of yourself and a stronger respectable world to live in.

Thank you!

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